With some of the usual participants having prior commitments and with the additions of some new members, we slightly shifted areas on the Johnson County Christmas Bird Count. This meant I birded about 2/3 of my usual territory. And with the weather I really don’t think it mattered much. As a group we ended up with 64 species, slightly above our average of 62. The difference this year was lack of waterfowl. So here is my Central Section JC CBC Recap.
As usual I was out listening for owls. I don’t have any problems hearing Great Horned or Eastern Screech-Owls but Barred Owls are problematic. And I missed them again this year. Luckily Mike heard one on the military base side of the count.
Upon sunrise I saw the small ponds throughout Atterbury FWA had a layer of ice. So no waterfowl. I changed plans and decided to start at Driftwood since it had open water.
After spending the allocated time at Driftwood I headed to Atterbury to check the deeper woods. And yes, I donned my orange vest with the hunters around.
I did notice on the day the numbers of the more numerous resident winter species like Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and Carolina Wren were higher. And I counted one or two Pileated Woodpecker at every stop. Which was unusual.
I ended the day with 42 species in my territory which is about normal without the country roads of the 1/3 part I didn’t cover this year. My goal is always 40 which is a little less than the 85-90 I average on the May count for the same territory!
I enjoy reading well written CBC recaps. You know the kind where the compiler takes the time to give an overview of the weather conditions, compare totals to other years, gives high or lows for each species, and misses and gains. Why are there so few written when there are so many CBC’s? Then again why are most reports a picture and few words on FB? Another topic to lament.
Mike will be compiling the total recap for the 2016 JC CBC but the numbers should be above average for the complete count. The groups saw several species we usually miss or see every few years. Plus there was waterfowl on Lamb Lake for the first time in several years.
Now for the SE Corner of the 2016 JC CBC which Megan and I have covered this territory the last several years. The area entrails Johnson County Park, the public side of Atterbury FWA, Driftwood SFA, and Irwin Park in Edinburgh.
We weren’t sure there was even going to be a count because the weather was predicted to be cold, which wasn’t the problem. But a slight coating of ice was also expected. Which we did get. But the main roads were heavily salted and weren’t a problem.
I was out by 6AM and owling by 6:45. I no sooner turned the Eastern-screech Owl recording on and one was within 10 feet. Probably the easiest one I ever called in. Then on to the Great Horned Owl area and it was apparent the side roads were going to be a problem.
I stopped and let hunters drive by and debated if I really wanted to try for Great Horned or not. Seeing as I still had an hour to sunrise and it was Sunday morning, I figured if I took my time I could manage the two miles on ice. Going 15mph the roads were manageable.
This proved to be one of the best birding choices I ever made.
Finally arriving at the location I stood outside the car for 25 minutes listening for the Great Horned Owls to call. I don’t know if it was the wind or weather but I never heard them calling. First time in 5 years I have missed them.
Ten minutes from the listed sunrise of 8AM I decided to get my bagel out of the lunchbox in the back seat. I get the bagel and turn to get into the driver seat.
Not 50 yards away I see a Great Horned Owl fly into a group of pines.
I have listened to this Great Horned Owl many times over the years and have even seen it a couple of times on telephone pole, but now I’m pretty sure I know where it roosts.
And those few seconds of seeing the owl fly into the pines is what keeps me getting up and going birding every chance I get.
We got started late since Megan had issues since her area had even worse roads. We finally started in Johnson County Park where we saw the strangest bird of the day.
At the park’s compost site we saw all the expected sparrows plus a little bit uncommon Field Sparrow.
We continued on over the frozen roads picking up a few species here and there. There was zero on the water at Driftwood SFA.
Mike had seen a Winter Wren at Irwin Park earlier in the week and sure enough it was there Sunday. But it didn’t stay still long enough for any photos for Mike or us. Canada Geese were seen which were the only waterfowl on the day.
After lunch I stopped by the Wilson Snipe area where I flushed three.
Megan and I ended up with 38 species which is just below the territory’s 4-year average of 39. The Field Sparrow was the only new species added. We saw another lone Ring-billed Gull a few years ago so this year was not the first. Frozen ponds led to notable misses of Mallard and Great Blue Heron. Otherwise we saw the expected species in the expected numbers.
Since I have now completed my BBS routes and finished helping on a couple other local breeding surveys I took the opportunity to work on my Johnson County IAS Summer Bird Count. The last few years I have been around the 100 species mark and since I was already at 90, I knew it would be tough to add species. With work being demanding the last few weeks I decided to go after EASY additions Saturday.
With sunrise at 6:15 that meant one more Saturday up by 4AM and out by 4:30AM. That put me at Atterbury FWA a little after 5AM. But even before I got there I had a GREAT HORNED OWL fly in front of my car while driving though Franklin. Right time. Right Place.
The first stop which is iffy anyway didn’t produce any owls. But the more reliable spot had 3 EASTERN SCREECH-OWLS flying around for over 10 minutes. In case you’re wondering I usually play a recording for about 1 minute and that’s it. This time it was about 30 seconds when the first one started calling.
Not even 6AM and I had added two species to the count.
Before heading to Driftwood I checked the pond in Johnson County Park. Again right place and time. No sooner than I stopped than a KILLDEER started hassling a SPOTTED SANDPIPER. Plus another easy addition was a RED-HEADED WOODPECKER calling in the distance. Two more easy species for the count.
On to Driftwood, no Double-crested Cormorant but a fly by Red-headed Woodpecker was nice.
To the Dark Road of Atterbury. No Black-billed Cuckoo calling as hoped but a young AMERICAN REDSTART was interested in me.
I then decided to walk back and take a long shot check to see if any rails were in the marshy area. By now the sun was up and it was getting hot. As expected no rails or much else of anything.
So with the heat rising and nothing calling I headed home. But first a stop by the PURPLE MARTIN house for a list easy species.
I’ll take the 5 easy additions since the birds were done calling by mid-morning. It’ll now by one species at a time until the last week of July when I can hope for an influx of shorebirds.
First the rest of the Solid Saturday that I posted about earlier in March. The day never cleared up until after I got home. So it was another day of taking photos with a cloudy background. Maybe next time it will be clear.
After leaving Franklin HS I headed to Atterbury. First I stopped by the GREAT BLUE HERON Rookery just west of the High School on Young’s Creek. I bring it up because soon I’m going to blog on the Johnson County’s Rookeries I know.
I then spent the rest of the day in the greater Atterbury FWA area. The bulk of the afternoon was spent walking the north end of Atterbury. Where I saw the SWAMP SPARROW.
First though was a stop at Driftwood were there wasn’t much happening except TREE SWALLOWS feeding.
Then on to the hike at Atterbury. The area always holds large numbers of EASTERN TOWHEES with over 20 seen or heard on the day.
I ended the day by watching a lone PIED-BILLED GREBE on the pond that my hike had circled.
I know I said in the last post I would continue last week’s story, but I thought I’d report on yesterday’s birds first.
Living here three years I have learned there is basically a two week window to see COMMON LOONS, HORNED GREBES, and BONAPARTE’S GULLS in Johnson County. So I thought I had better take advantage of a day off Friday to check the local water. I wasn’t disappointed.
The shorebird spot was still devoid of shorebirds. Maybe tomorrow.
I then headed to Driftwood SWA to check on loons and grebes. NOTHING but a distant PIED-BILLED GREBE. Once again no waterfowl. Or no fisherman for that fact.
But for the second year in a row at Driftwood I had an early BARN SWALLOW mixed in with the TREE SWALLOWS.
I wasn’t surprised but both the Barn Swallow and the count on the Tree Swallows – 110 – were flagged by eBird. The Barn Swallow was 3 days earlier than the one I wrote about last year. And the number of Tree Swallows wasn’t unusual for this time of year.
But no loons was troublesome since I’m not sure I’ll have an opportunity to check for them in the next 2 weeks and Driftwood is the only location I have seen them in Johnson County.
On to Atterbury FWA to check for other waterfowl. Stopping at Honker Haven (you have to love the names the DNR has assigned to the small ponds) for waterfowl, I immediately see a COMMON LOON on the water.
As stated above, a county first for me outside of Driftwood. It didn’t move around or dive which wasn’t unusual since this isn’t a very deep pond. In summer it doesn’t take long for it to develop into shorebird habitat. I also saw a GADWALL which I was missing off the county list.
My last stop was Lowe’s Pond in Franklin for a possible HORNED GREBE.
Walking down to the water and looking around the brush one pops up about 20 feet from me. What luck!
And it didn’t get spooked for a minute actually giving some good photos. But it finally noticed me and took off to the far end to be with the LESSER SCAUP, BUFFLEHEAD, and RING-NECKED DUCKS.
So all in all a good day. Missed the Bonaparte’s but I have only seen them once in the county.
This might seem sacrilegious on a birding blog, but I’m glad fall migration is about over. I’ll miss viewing the vireos, thrushes, and shorebirds as they move through.
But not warblers.
It’s not that I can’t ID warblers. That’s not the problem. It’s just that they never seem to give a good look. Just a quick view and they move on. Even sparrows cooperate better.
And this is supposed to be birdwatching, not birdglimpsing.
I have never developed the love of the bright warblers that others have. Yes, most are usually stunning when you can get a glimpse of one. But the time and effort and brief look is usually not worth the half-second glance.
I have decided over the years that taking a few hours on a Saturday morning in the vain attempt to see warblers is just not as satisfying as viewing larger birds. I see why people specialize in gulls or hawks. They usually give a good long, look. And with gulls there are usually numerous ones sitting out in the open to check out.
Even American Robins or Eastern Bluebirds are more welcome as they sit for a few minutes in a tree, well exposed. Or most woodpeckers, a bird that usually sits out in the open.
But not the singular warbler darting through the undergrowth. Just not that fun.
Maybe if I was more of a lister this would be important. Taking the time to make sure I get a warbler for a list might make the time spent looking worth it.
So I’m looking forward to getting back to large raptors and large waterfowl and even winter sparrows. Birds I can see and ID.
Following are several things I learned (or had known, forgot, and learned again) the week of May 25. Hopefully you will learn a few things also.
1. Early Saturday morning I saw a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I couldn’t tell if she was carrying anything like nesting material. It seemed late in the season to see a Grosbeak, especially a female. Then later on the day I saw three males. So did I really know S&D (status and distribution) on Rose-breasted Grosbeaks? My recollection was that I might see one or two during the summer. But was I mixing up all the years I lived in Illinois?
So I checked. Johnson County is on the southern edge of Rose-breasted Grosbeak’s breeding range which means they will be seen by a few people in Central and Southern Indiana during the breeding season. I have seem a few the last couple of years but the sightings were early June and late July. So I will keep frequenting the area to see if I can get proof of breeding.
2. I came across two male Willow Flycatchers calling. I wondered if I could use them to track back to a nest?
Nope. According to The Birds of North America Online and I quote “Female selects site, collects nest material, and builds nest while male perches nearby.”
I’m sure there is a joke there describing female-male human relations but I will let it pass. I will look for a nest the old fashioned way. Get lucky.
3. Keeping on the nesting topic I learned that both Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows start the breeding season building their nests on the ground. The later in the breeding season it gets they tend to build nests higher and higher in bushes. First starting in lower bush branches and then lastly slightly higher branches.
4. Put a pair of dry socks and shoes in the trunk if you are going to walk in high wet grass all morning.
5. I learned that Wood Thrushes do sing out in the open. I don’t think I have ever seen a Wood Thrush singing in the open for any length of time. Let alone at the top of a taller tree. This guy was singing for at least 20 minutes. But he never did get out in the sun for a better picture.
6. In the really “too much information”, The Birds of North America Online has a small section devoted to preening which I have always passed over. But Saturday I had the opportunity to watch a Common Yellowthroat preening and wanted to know what they had to say.
“Preens at all times of day. Normally scratches head with foot over wing, but may (rarely) scratch under wing.”
And I was glad to see that this Common Yellowthroat was normal on his scratching.
I didn’t learn a lot this week except Charlotte’s traffic is worse than Indianapolis. Enough said.
1. I was in North Carolina the week for work. Picked up the rental car in Charlotte and drove two hours to the country town where we have a plant. Immediately getting out of the car I heard a Fish Crow.
There is no mistaken the call of a Fish Crow.
I have thought this before when I birded in southern Illinois. To me it isn’t even close to an American Crow‘s call. I have read how people have confused the two calls, something I just don’t understand. About 5 minutes later an American Crow flew by and it was completely different.
2. Non-birding but relevant to this post. Different web browsers support different audio formats. Which makes it a real pain when I want to post some audio I recorded. So unless I want to pay a royalty for patents I will have to post 2 different audio files.
3. Following is a recording I made of Common Loons calling at Driftwood last week. I hadn’t heard them calling since I was young and we went to Northern Minnesota in the summers. They called every few minutes for the 3+ hours I was at Driftwood.
One of the two following should work. You will probably have to turn up your volume.
4. Speaking of Driftwood, after the Bonaparte’s Gulls were there the previous weekend, I played the odds that more gulls would be there last weekend. And as luck would have it, 2 Ring-billed Gulls spent the afternoon flying. Not a rare bird but uncommon for Johnson County.